ARCHERS is a band founded in Madison (WI) by guitarist Ben Koehler, and vocalist Nathaniel Pulley in 2015. After releasing their first EP “Cuts & Bruises” they have toured regionally. They came to national attention in the US after publishing their metalcore cover of “The Hills” by The Weeknd (nearly 2 mio streams up to date).
Their latest EP “New Normal” was published in April 2020. They released two singles out of it: “Blckmarketmonkeymagic” and the most recent “Composure”. The album has been streamed over 500.000 times on Spotify since its release.
In this interview, Ben Koehler tells about how they started the band, the reason why they chose to cover The Hills and the symbols behind their latest single, Composure.
Q.: How did you guys meet and when did you start the band?
B.K.: Our vocalist Nate Pulley and I started ARCHERS in 2015. We’d known each other for about a year at that point and Nate had done some fill in work for my previous band.
Q.: What are your music references as a band? And to each of you? Are there artists you listen to who are completely different from Archers music?
B.K.: I’m into pop rock and pop punk music. Some of my biggest influences are Reliant K, Motion City Soundtrack, Thrice, and The Band Camino. Nate Pulley is into similar music as myself and Nate Porter, our bassist, is the metal head in the band.
Q.: What’s the reason behind the name you chose for the band?
B.K.: I wish we had a better explanation for the name but I was in a band called Archers & Illuminators and when that band ended me and Nate decided to call our new band ARCHERS.
Q.: You started in 2015 and since then you have never stopped. Has your way of thinking about your music and music generally speaking changed during these years?
B.K.: Absolutely, when we first started ARCHERS we just wanted to play as many shows as possible. Over the years we’ve been in this band we’ve learned how to be more selective with what shows we play, be more strategic about playing different areas and not over playing the same area, and how to market ourselves online and build a fanbase from behind a computer that then wants to come see us play concerts.
Q.: In 2018, you covered The Weeknd’s The Hills. The Weeknd is an alternative R&B, pop songwriter, producer. Why did you decide to cover a song of an artist who belongs to a completely different music background from yours? On top of this, this song is very well known. Have you ever thought that it could be a big risk to cover it?
B.K.: When we decide to do a cover song we want to find a song outside of our genre so we can reimagine it from the ground up while still keeping the basic structure of the song. We’re all big fans of pop music so we like finding pop songs that we think would sound great if they were written as a metal track. When we release a cover we definitely make sure we’ve taken all the steps to credit the original artist for creating the song we’re covering.
Q.: Do you mainly play in Wisconsin venues? How’s the feeling of playing for people belonging to your community?
B.K.: Last year we started branching out and playing more throughout our region of the country but we’ve definitely built up our strongest following in Madison, WI so hometown shows always have a special feeling to them.
Q.: After the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests you decided to take a clear stand against violence and to support “Black Lives Matter”. How did your fans react? I would be surprised but did you receive any message against your view or the message you posted on Facebook?
B.K.: We didn’t receive any negative feedback and our fans seemed to take our statement very well.
Q.: Last April you published a new EP, “NEW NORMAL”. How have you been dealing with the “new normal”, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic?
B.K.: We’re all bummed that we’ve yet to be able to play a physical concert since releasing New Normal. We’ve done two live stream concerts that have gone over well and have honestly helped bring our concerts to people who wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see us on our initial planned tour scheduling for 2020. So there’s been positive and negative effects of us not being able to tour this year.
Q.: Your latest single, Composure, is very symbolic. There are dark messages in it. Lyrics like “If I drown will I find closure/Will I loose composure/Will I even care” or “I’ll destroy myself” or again “Will the pain find another heart to break”. We’ve all been living in a constant feeling of “drowning” for months now because of the lockdown and therefore these words are extremely touching. But what was your intent when you wrote the song?
B.K.: Nate wrote Composure as a follow up to Black Lung. He wanted to dive into where his mind was at during the darkest parts of his life in hopes that if someone else is feeling the same and struggling with suicidal urges that they’re not alone.
Q.: The video of the song is full of symbols, too. Where was it shot? Who’s the mind behind it?
B.K.: We shot the performance part of the video in a movie theatre that was closed due to Covid. For the story parts our videographer Eddie Curran filmed those parts at a different time and absolutely knocked it out of the park bringing the song to life through symbolic visuals.
Q.: When you think about re-starting after the pandemic, what’s the first thing you would like to do? Would you like to tour more in the USA? Any plans to come to Europe? B.K.: We’d love to do a full North America tour. If it seems like we’d have enough fan support we’d absolutely love to follow that up with a European and Australian tour.
All pictures courtesy of Kyle Hilker/Shatter Imagery